If you’ve turned on any TV or scrolled through social media, I’m sure you’re well aware of the recent passings of Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain. For those of us outside of their personal lives, these deaths were unexpected. News of these tragedies shocked the world, but a silver-lining can be found. They sparked a conversation. Celebrities who we know and love decided to come forth and share their own personal stories with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Olivia Munn, Chrissy Teigen and Jada Pinkett Smith all shared their stories, to name a few.
I love seeing celebrities, who everyone thinks “have it all”, share their stories with mental health. Not only does it show that mental health issues can affect anyone, but by having people of celebrity stature share their stories, it somewhat normalizes conversations about mental health. There needs to be more people having conversations about mental health. With more and more people talking about mental health we can continue to normalize it so that we can help prevent suicides and help each other get the proper care and treatment of their mental illnesses. For this reason, among others, I’ve decided now would be the right time to share my own personal stories with mental health and I hope I can inspire you to share yours, or at least help you become more comfortable having these difficult conversations about mental health with your friends, family and self.
"...my parents drove all the way down to Riverside twice."
Alright, so enough about celebrities and back to your local, California girl. For those of you who don’t know, I have recently started suffering from major anxiety and have had my fair share of panic attacks (both large and small) throughout the last 6 months. While it’s a fairly new issue, my anxiety decided to catch up on time lost and have a significant impact on how I now lie my life.
Before we get too deep, let me first give you a few definitions of anxiety. I don’t know about you, but I like definitions. Somehow being able to identify something makes me feel more in control with something which was once or may still be unknown. Here are two definitions, compliments of Google.
A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with a compulsive behavior or panic attacks. ~Google (psychiatric definition)
The feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. ~Google ( something definition)
I wanted to provide both of these definitions to show the difference between feeling anxious and having anxiety. These are two different things. We all feel anxious sometimes; before a big interview, before going on the flight, during the final exam, before a date or for the first time driving on the freeway. These moments are all typical times to feel anxious. The thing about this feeling is that you feel it at that moment and then once the moment passes, you’ve conquered your fear and it’s gone. You’re back to your old chipper and carefree yourself. I used to have this luxury. Before giving class presentations and when I had to go to big events I would be nervous, but I was able to do them, enjoy myself, and overcome the anxious feeling.
Then one day, after a traumatic mental event (to be detailed in a later post) that anxious feeling didn’t go away. I tried to sleep it away, exercise it away, and just plain ignore it and pretend it wasn’t there, but it stayed with me...before, during, and after any minor or major event. When I closed my eyes it was still there. In anything I did, it was there; during final presentations, surprise going away parties, at the gym, in the car, at my friend’s apartment. Slowly, but surely, over the course of six months (and counting) my anxiousness turned into anxiety; a constant, irritating and unwavering anxiety which began to infect every single part of my life, as it infested my mind.
My last couple of months in Riverside were some of the hardest times in my life. In 3 months I went to the hospital more than 10 times, flew round-trip to Sacramento, drove round-trip back to Sacramento, and my parents drove all the way down to Riverside twice. I missed some classes, days at work and I canceled plans with my friends on numerous accounts. Basic tasks were hard and I was in a dark place.
So, without getting too deep in this first post, I wanted to mainly just address and bring light to my situation, acknowledge what’s going on in my life, and recognize and praise all of the support I had from the beginning, to now.
"It was my friends, especially those apart of my home-away-from-home, who have supported me from the very beginning."
If there is one thing that hasn't changed about me throughout this new journey with anxiety (and trust me, I have changed A LOT) it is my vocalization. I’ve never been one to hold my tongue or not speak my mind. I have always been vocal and when going through this time, I kept my voice. I am very fortunate to have a big support system that goes beyond my amazing parents (who, by the way, have done more for me in the past 6 months than I could ever repay them for), but expands to my siblings, my friends, co-workers, and professionals. It was my friends, especially those apart of my home-away-from-home, who have supported me from the very beginning. They were the ones who drove me back and forth to the hospital at all hours of the day and night and sat there, either in person or on the phone, while I vented my heart out. They checked in with me to see how I was handling everything and support me in any way they could and any way I needed. They gave me love and comfort without ever making me feel like I was a burden or like I was putting weight on their shoulders. They did all of this and more and continue to do so for me to this day.
I never shied away from asking for support. I reached out to my friends almost immediately and sought comfort from my family. I looked for reasons and solutions with my doctors at Kaiser Southern California and Northern California. I took up meditation and mindfulness and am now in therapy. I even took an unpaid Communications Internship with Mental Health California not only because I wanted more work experience (the future is always on my mind) but because I wanted to learn more about what’s going on with me. Hence, the definitions at the beginning of this post. I find comfort in knowledge and I have learned so much in just the few months I have been interning at this non-profit.
I don’t think there’s a real “cure” for anxiety, but there are remedies and coping mechanisms and trust me, I plan to try them ALL (naturally and responsibly, of course). I’ve let my anxiety take over so much of my life over the last 6 months and while I can’t control it, I can do whatever I can to continue to live my best life around it. I have got so much to look forward to, just in the coming months alone, and I refuse to let my fears and anxiety hold me back any longer. With exciting adventures and changes, comes undeniable fears and worries, but I am always up for a challenge, and I am fortunate enough to have more support than most, and I am ready to be transparent and open about living with and battling through my chronic anxiety.
I can’t exactly explain what this anxiety does to my mental health, but in the future of this blog, I will attempt to do so. Future blogs will have stories, memories, advice, resources, articles and more, so, if you decide to stick with me throughout my journey of mental health, I welcome you, your stories, your struggles, and your advice and I look forward to progressing together.